Cartoon by Daryl Cagle

Netanyahu says he’ll attend October pre-indictment hearing

Times of Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer on Monday evening informed the attorney general that his client will attend a hearing on his three criminal cases set for October 2, after failing to convince Avichai Mandelblit to postpone it.

In a video posted online, Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad said, “We will come to the hearing, but it would have been right to reconsider the date and delay it.”

Hadad added, “We believe there are significant arguments justifying postponing the [hearing] date,” and complained of “dozens of missing documents” in the case files provided to him.

Monday was the last day by which Netanyahu could signal his intention to attend the hearing. Had he failed to do so, his right to a hearing would have been waived and Mandelblit would have moved to make a decision in his cases. The attorney general could then have filed the pending indictment in the prime minister’s criminal probes within days or weeks.

Netanyahu had attempted to have the meeting pushed off, citing the fresh elections, but Mandelblit dismissed the new vote as a justification for postponing the pre-indictment hearing, citing multiple delays by the premier’s defense team.

After Mandelblit announced in mid-February his intention to indict the prime minister, pending the hearing, on fraud and breach of trust charges in three corruption cases, and on a bribery charge in one of them, Netanyahu’s attorneys asked to freeze the process until after the April 9 election. They then refused to pick up the case files from the attorney general’s office for more than a month, saying they had not been paid for their services.

Last month, the attorney general agreed to postpone the hearing — originally scheduled for July 10 — to October 2-3. Netanyahu’s lawyers had asked for a full-year delay, arguing that the volume of evidence was too large to review in three months, but that request was rejected.

In late May, attorney Navot Tel-Zur quit the defense team, citing lack of payment, leaving Hadad as the sole attorney.

Netanyahu is locked in a battle with the Permits Committee in the State Comptroller’s Office over his request to fund his defense with the help of overseas financiers. The committee has rejected the request twice, saying it was inappropriate for non-Israeli benefactors to pay for the prime minister’s legal defense in a criminal case that alleges he received illicit gifts from wealthy individuals in Israel and abroad.

Hadad on Monday asserted that the Permits Committee’s decision contradicted its approach to “any other public figure.”

The lack of financial assistance, he said, “means only I am here to represent the prime minister. One person who needs to read so much material must have more time.” >>>